Corbett mum on Pa. budget plan

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett will unveil his budget proposal Tuesday in Harrisburg. But residents will likely have to wait until the very last minute for any of the plan’s line-item specifics

    The Republican hasn’t said anything about its details, and the new administration has yet to spring any major leaks. In fact, Corbett went as far as booting reporters from a recent Berks County campaign event to avoid budget questions, even though state Senate candidate Larry Medaglia had initially invited the press to the fundraiser. (“I think the governor’s staff still has a lot to learn from a public relations standpoint,” Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati told the exiled reporters.)

    But Corbett’s budget secretary, Charles Zogby, has predicted a “day of reckoning,” with billions of dollars in cuts. And Corbett campaigned on a consistent theme of less government spending and no new taxes.

    That’s welcome news to Matthew Brouillette of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation. “We’ve been spending at a rate that is simply unsustainable. While at the same time, assuming massive amounts of debt and unfunded liabilities,” he said. “So it’s critical that we put the breaks on spending and restore some fiscal responsibility in this budget, in order to take care of things going forward.”

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    Many Democrats contend budget reductions will lead to massive state employee layoffs. A report from the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center warns nearly 29,000 jobs will be lost for every $1 billion in cuts.

    Brouillette conceded the point, but argued a smaller government footprint will ultimately help the economy. “That money is going to be far more productive in the private sector, and start to create jobs for those who may use them in the public sector. Since 2000, the private sector has lost over 124,000 jobs, while the public sector in Pennsylvania has grown by 39,000 jobs,” he said.

    Brouillette’s intellectual sparring partner, Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward, predicted Corbett’s proposals won’t pass easily, even though Republicans control both the House and Senate. “When people see what that means – it means large cuts, fewer jobs, and ending things that people rely on, like full-day kindergarten and ending assistance for their frail, elderly parents, they will choose other options, and let the General Assembly know that’s not the direction they want to go in,” she said.

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